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Facebook deploys new transparency tools to protect EU elections

The State’s ethics watchdog raised concerns that foreign based organisations could influence elections in Ireland.

Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

FACEBOOK HAS ANNOUNCED changes to the way political advertisements are handled on the social media site ahead of the upcoming European Parliament elections.

The social media giant said it is introducing a range of new tools to help prevent ads on the platform from being used for foreign interference, and to increase transparency around all forms of political advertising. 

The tools were already implemented in countries that held elections in the past year, including the mid-term polls in the United States, and votes in Brazil and India.

Google implemented similar rules last month while in the run up to Ireland’s Eighth Amendment referendum last year both of the tech firms were prompted to tackle ads that attempted to interfere with the vote.

In the weeks before polling day Facebook banned all referendum related ads from advertisers based outside of Ireland. Google went further and prohibited all advertisements pertaining to the vote. 

The new tools will be rolled out on both Facebook and Instagram. Here’s some of the key measures:

  • All EU advertisers will need to be authorised in their country to run ads related to politics and issues.
  • All ads related to politics or issues must be clearly labelled, including indicating who is paying for the ad. Businesses or organisations will also have to provide their contact details.
  • All political or issue ads that have not been properly registered will be blocked from mid-April.
  • An Ad Library tool will store all political ads for seven years. Clicking on “See Ad Details” will reveal the number of times the ad was viewed and demographics about the audience reached including age range, location and gender.

Despite the measures Facebook concedes that it will not be able to entirely prevent abuse.

“We’re up against smart, creative and well-funded adversaries who change their tactics as we spot abuse, but we believe that they will help prevent future interference in elections on Facebook,” Richard Allen, the company’s vice president for Global Policy Solutions, said.

In its annual report last year the Standards in Public Office (SIPO) raised concerns that foreign based organisations could influence the outcome of an election or referendum in Ireland by funding political advertising or digital campaigns.

With reporting by AFP

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Ceimin Burke

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